Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan – Ambitious Yet Underwhelming
So, Jason takes Manhattan. What, there weren’t enough horny teenagers coming to Crystal Lake for him to slaughter? He had to go all the way to the Big Apple to find more of them? I mean why not “Jason Goes to the Police Academy” or “Jason Goes on the Tonight Show” or “Jason in Space”? Well, wait, the space one was done two films later. But what I am getting at is that it’s ludicrous to take Jason out of his element. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Yes, they put him in outer space in Jason X. That worked, oddly enough. I really can’t put my finger on why the whole Manhattan thing didn’t work. It wasn’t Kane Hodders’ fault. He went above and beyond the call of duty as Jason. I suppose the best thing to say about the movie is that it didn’t stink as badly as Part V. It comes pretty damn close, so I know it’s not for lack of trying. I mean, even the kills in this one are lame as hell. The best one being when Jason decapitates the captain of the high school boxing team with one swift uppercut to the chin. Don’t even get me started on the acting. Other than the great physical acting of Kane Hodder as Jason this one is seriously bad.
The eighth installment in the durable Friday the 13th slasher franchise took a bold leap by purportedly transplanting hockey-masked killer Jason Voorhees to the Big Apple. But 1989’s Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan failed to fully deliver on its subtitle’s promise, saddling the series with one of its most derided sequels.
Picking up with Jason resurrected from his latest demise, Part VIII follows a group of graduating teens en route to Manhattan on a cruise ship, unaware that Jason has sneaked aboard. After dispatching much of the oblivious crew and passengers, Jason ultimately ends up pursuing the surviving students through New York City streets.
It was an inventive premise aiming to refresh the repetitive formula by changing the setting. But budget limitations resulted in Jason spending too little time actually stalking the Manhattan streets, reducing the city to a cursory backdrop for the climax. Fans felt cheated, as the film leaned heavily on Canadian locations doubling for New York.
While moments like Jason in Times Square proved novel, the recycled teen-slasher template felt stale, despite higher gore content. Even Manhattan’s spectacle struggles to mask the by-then tedious killings. Director Rob Hedden injects some self-aware humor, but it never balances the rote proceedings.
Part VIII merits credit for trying to revitalize a wilting franchise by placing Jason in the incongruous big city setting. But its reach exceeded its grasp, as the film couldn’t fully deliver the premise its title touted. The setting change was ultimately cosmetic, making Part VIII a disappointment for fans lured by the promise of full-on Jason Takes Manhattan.
I have said before that I am a huge Friday the 13th fan. It is my personal opinion that Jason Voorhees is one of the coolest movie villains ever created. However, this is one of the worst films in the series. So, skip this one. Enough said.
The original posters for the film featured Jason ripping through an “I Love NY” poster. In the first poster, Jason is holding a bloody knife which was cleaned in a second poster for fear that the blood was too graphic. However, both posters were dropped following a complaint from the New York Tourism Committee.
In the scene where Jason reaches through the porthole and grabs Rennie, Jensen Daggett was reportedly really terrified. Her face was just inches from a large and very sharp piece of glass that had become stuck in the window frame, and the actor who played Jason was (unknowingly) pulling her towards it.
In the original script, when Jason makes it to the dock, a dog starts barking at him and he kicked it. Kane Hodder, who was playing Jason, felt that kicking the dog was going too far and so the scene was dropped.
Jensen Daggett as Rennie Wickham
Scott Reeves as Sean Robertson
Peter Mark Richman as Charles McCulloch
Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees
Directed by Rob Hedden
Written by Rob Hedden and Victor Miller (characters)